Friedan Says Women’s Movement Can Energize Judaism

Structural changes are needed in Jewish communities in the United States and Israel if the “new life” created by the women’s movement is to be allowed to energize Judaism, feminist-author Betty Friedan told a conference here Monday night.

She noted that Jewish women’s issues are “issues of survival, “both in terms of the Jewish future and the survival of the human race in the nuclear era.

Friedan spoke to an overflow crowd at the opening session of the 20th American Jewish Congress American-Israel Dialogue at the Van Leer Jerusalem Foundation here. The four-day meeting, which is examining the role of Jewish women in Israel and America, includes prominent feminists from both countries.

Joining Ms. Friedan was Rivka Bar-Yosef, professor of sociology at Hebrew University and first advisor to the Prime Minister of the state of women in Israel. The evening was chaired by Theodore Mann, president of the AJCongress.

Friedan told the participants that when she visited Israel 10 years ago, feminist ideas were perceived as threatening to the survival of the family. “Now it is clear,” said the author of The Feminine Mystique and The Second State, “that only with women’s full equality, will we have the continuation of a strong family.”

JEWISH WOMEN HAVE BEEN USED AS SCAPEGOATS

Friedan also warned that Jewish women have been used as “scapegoats” in the international arena by “regimes of the left and the right” who have targeted them for attack at international women’s conferences in order to divert attention from fundamental social and political problems.

She advised the Jewish communal leaders in Israel and America to prepare for the upcoming United Nations-sponsored International Women’s Decade Conference” to be held in Nairobi in 1985.

In the past, countries that most strenuously attacked Israel at these conferences were countries that opposed equality for women and used an assault on Zionism to direct attention away from legitimate women’s issues, she noted.

Bar-Yosef stressed that while Jewish women in Israel and the United States face many similar problems. Israeli women face special problems intrinsic to their own society.

She cited four principal obstacles faced by women in Israel: “The segregation of women and men, no access for women to the higher levels of religious education, the exclusion of women from any function of judicial authority in the rabbinical judicial system, and the assymetric status of men and women in the family.”

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